Looking east on Wilshire Boulevard from Beaudry Avenue, 1954-2010

1954-2010

The 1950s heralded enormous changes for the easternmost half-mile of Wilshire Boulevard. As construction of the Harbor Freeway cleared an enormous trench on the western edge of downtown, a portion of the boulevard was rebuilt as an overpass which opened in 1952, seen in the foreground of the above photos. By then, the area was poised to supplant the historic core as the city’s main financial district.

Two buildings in the original photograph have survived to this day. The General Petroleum Building (Mobilgas sign), designed by Welton Becket, was claimed to be the largest office building in the city at the time of its construction in 1948, only to be swiftly dwarfed by its new neighbors. On the right is the Wilshire Grand Hotel, which first opened as the city’s Statler Hotel in 1952 and is currently the proposed site of a new major skyscraper development.

The nine-story Rex Arms apartments opened in 1912 at 945 Orange Street, developed by F. O. Engstrum, whose firm was also behind the magnificent Bryson Apartments near MacArthur Park. At the time, the Rex was one of Los Angeles’ largest and grandest residential buildings, held up by the great ambitions of the city’s elites. After Orange Street was renamed Wilshire Boulevard, a portion of the Rex’s main facade was demolished during the avenue’s widening in the early 1930s, which explains its rather stripped down appearance in the original photo.

The Rex disappears from newspaper records in 1976, probably at the time of its destruction. Since 1980, the site has been occupied by a 22-story office tower designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. Originally named 911 Wilshire, the building’s name and address, for obvious reasons, were changed to 915 Wilshire several years ago.

Wilshire Grand Development [SkyscraperPage Forum]

Sources:
1. “911 Wilshire nears completion.” Los Angeles Times. 4 May 1980. H18
2. “New apartments model of type.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Nov. 1912. 6.
3. “New York Life to buy oil company building.” Los Angeles Times. 17 Mar. 1948. A1.
4. Richardson, Eric. “57 Years Ago: Hotel Statler Opens at Figueroa and Wilshire.” blogdowntown. 6 Aug 2009. http://blogdowntown.com/2009/08/4581-57-years-ago-hotel-statler-opens-at-figueroa.
5. “Wilshire bridge over freeway opens today.” Los Angeles Times. 23 Oct. 1952. A1.
Original photo: “Rex Arms, Mobilgas – Los Angeles, 1954.” 1954. Neat Stuff Blog. http://neat-stuff-blog.blogspot.com/2009/11/vintage-los-angeles.html.

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This entry was posted in Downtown, Los Angeles, Then and now, Wilshire Boulevard and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Looking east on Wilshire Boulevard from Beaudry Avenue, 1954-2010

  1. Gabby says:

    Great photos, fascinating info.

  2. Karla says:

    Hi,
    I just found your old blog BGTT, so happy to see the paris pictures. Just loved it there. Your old blog led me to this one, I live in LA too and will keep an eye on this blog now to see what kinds of cool pictures you post about LA.
    Thanks,
    Karla

  3. Kevin Williamson says:

    I love L.A. then and now pictures. For the last few years I’ve been looking for investors or anyone I can get interested in producing a four dimensional computer model of Los Angeles. It would be a 3D model of L.A. with a time slider. You could stand here at Wilshire and Beaudry and move the slider from ’56 to 2010 and you’d see all the different buildings come and go. Eventually, I’d like to add period cars and people as well. The challenge is finding a business venture on which to hang this idea. A video game? Historical kiosks placed around L.A. where you could see what the area used to look like? I’m just not sure what would provide a return good enough to interest investors. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them.

    • brianhhsu says:

      That’s a very neat idea, though it definitely would be a challenge to find private investors to back it up. I suspect that the most interested parties would be either university departments or libraries and historical societies, who tend to own most of the relevant source material. Philadelphia has a number of related web-based geohistory projects that have been pretty successful. The city’s Department of Records runs a nifty site, http://www.phillyhistory.org, where the city’s massive photographic archives are viewable and searchable by geographic location down to individual blocks. A number of the city’s libraries have also teamed up to create a site where a huge number of city maps and atlases can be viewed in a map overlay, http://www.philageohistory.org. Both projects have done a great job of obtaining grant funding from a variety of sources. I hope this helps!

  4. Kirk says:

    In the early 1960s I spent two summers living in the Rex Arms, as my mother had a summer job as a stenographer at the Statler across the street. The apartment had a bedroom, living room, and kitchen, with a Murphy bed in the living room. An attraction for me (13 y/o) was the big pool table in the basement.

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